Badger cull: Government to delay scheme until next year


Owen Paterson: Need to ensure "the cull will conform to the scientific criteria and the evidence base"

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The government has announced it will delay a planned cull of badgers in England until next summer, after widespread protests against the scheme.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said this was necessary to "get it right" and the "optimal time" for this year had passed.

Under coalition plans, several thousand badgers could be shot, in an effort to reduce levels of bovine tuberculosis.

The anti-cull campaigner and Queen guitarist Brian May welcomed the delay.

Ministers have given approval for a cull in two areas, Gloucestershire and west Somerset, as part of efforts to control bovine TB.

Under the plans, badgers will be shot in the open without first being trapped in cages, which is current practice.

Opponents, including the RSPCA, say that is inhumane, with an e-petition to the government attracting more than 160,000 signatures.


In a statement to MPs, Mr Paterson said the cull "should have begun" earlier this summer but had been delayed until after the Olympics and Paralympics, with recent bad weather also hampering preparations.

But he said that the alternative - a vaccine - was only 50% to 60% effective, adding: "I'm entirely convinced that the badger cull is the right thing to do."

The National Farmers' Union is leading the preparations for the scheme, but Mr Paterson said it had written to him asking for a delay, as this was not the best time of year to go ahead.

He said badger numbers in Gloucestershire and Somerset were higher than had been previously thought, adding: "It's crucial that we get this right."

The government's plan is based on the results of a nine-year trial which showed the spread of the disease could be slowed slightly if more than 70% of badgers in an area could be eradicated. But if it was less than 70%, the spread of TB could increase, it found.

map showing distribution of badgers and bovine TB in the UK

Mr Paterson said: "It would be wrong to go ahead if those on the ground cannot be confident of removing at least 70% of the population."

He added: "By starting the pilots next summer, we can build on the work that's already been done and ensure that the cull will conform to the scientific criteria and the evidence base."

'No answer'

For Labour Mary Creagh, shadow environment secretary, called the government's handling of the badger cull "incompetent and shambolic".

"Once again, ministers present the House with a disaster entirely of their own making. Once again, it's farmers and taxpayers who are left counting the cost," she said.

"Bovine TB is a terrible disease for farmers, their families and their communities. But this cull was never going to be a silver bullet."

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: "We welcome this postponement, but this must not be a temporary reprieve, but must mark an end to all cull plans.

"Science, the public and MPs from all parties had said very clearly that a cull is no answer to bovine TB."

Brian May, who has campaigned against the cull, called the government announcement "at least a temporary reprieve".

He added: "But let's be very clear: this is a scientifically flawed, ethically reprehensible, economically unjustifiable and reckless policy that needs to be abandoned, once and for all."

But Peter Jones, president of the British Veterinary Association, said: "The science has not changed. Scientists agree that culling badgers does reduce the levels of infection in cattle herds, and we know that no country has dealt with bovine TB without tackling the disease in wildlife."

Line graph showing bovine TB incidence in UK from 1996 to 2011

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says the cull is necessary to protect cattle from bovine TB.

Last year, 26,000 cattle in England had to be slaughtered after contracting the disease.

The Welsh government has opted for a system of vaccination while Scotland is officially TB-free.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Just kill the badgers and be done with it.

    We are not talking about an extinction event here. Rats are vermin too, and no one wants to live with them, why should farmers live with badgers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    If this cull ever goes ahead, those responsible for allowing, organising and carrying it out had better make sure TB is erradicated or they won't be very popular. What happens if and when it returns? More culling until the badger is extinct? This is obviously a major problem for farmers and the source of the TB is not in doubt, but the solution is questionable. Random shooting won't stop it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Any infected animal is a threat to other animals: you can't blame just one. bTB can be spread from cows, badgers, cats, pigs, and deer, amongst others. Shall we kill them all? The disease is the enemy, not a particular species. Vaccination is the only answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    So glad that the badgers have a stay of execution for now, I hope it becomes a permanent one. It's about time the government did some proper research to find the real cause of the spread of BTb and it's anyone's bet they will find it has nothing to do with badgers and everything to do with bad management on farms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    TB destroys farms. Does that means we should destroy the rest of the ecosystem to save farms? Badgers are not the only carriers of TB e.g. deer, feral cats and rats. So do we obliterate all wild animals to save the domesticated ones. If we destroy badgers what lower level carriers and pest like rats are going to multiply? Better to develop a good cattle and badger vaccine plus testing program.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Bright eyes,
    Burning like fire.
    Bright eyes,
    How can you close and fail?
    How can the light that burned so brightly
    Suddenly burn so pale?

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    @ 26. Matthew

    Prove it. That's all anyone is asking for. Before you go on a rampage of slaughter, prove that the creature you want to drive to extinction is actually at fault.

    Knee jerk superstitious guesswork is no basis on which to slaughter species.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    #59 How much will the proposed cull add onto the price of food? I used to work on a vaccine to prevent Newcastle Disease Virus (a REALLY nasty chicken virus which can wipe out whole farms). The vaccine was highly effective & is given to all chickens in the US. Adds 1p to the price of each bird. The numbers of cattle culled here are a drop in the ocean to how many we cull annually for beef.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    In the 21st Century, is it not possible to discover, prepare, invent, or otherwise produce a bovine TB vaccination? Simples!

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    The issue is how best to address the spread of Bovine TB. The government claimed they would be led by the science and the scientists and in this case they clearly have not. Instead they took a pro farmer stance only to U turn as their popularity wanes. If we are serious about eliminating Bovine TB, let the scientists lead and not politicians, farmers or Queen guitarists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Look at all these comments relating to Badger love! Most probably haven't even seen a badger (I wonder how many of them are roaming Oxford Street or Leicester Square?). I'd like to see you try and cuddle would rip out your Trachea!

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    The clue's in the name - Bovine TB.
    From wikipedia - The biological subfamily Bovinae includes a diverse group of 10 genera of medium- to large-sized ungulates, including domestic cattle, bison, African buffalo, the water buffalo, the yak, and the four-horned and spiral-horned antelopes.

    No mention of badgers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    the spelling contained in comment 37 is quite appalling and I am surprised this passed the moderator

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.


    Let me argue these points

    Animal groups like PETA, only ever use Cute animals when campaigning yet ignore the less attractive ones killed to make way for their precious soya products in the rain forest

    The Disneyfication of the animal world has blurred the lines on this issue massively

    Bet if we said badgers carry a disease that killed kittens we would not even have this debate

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    It's time people realised that they, and not the badgers that are the problem. One in three people carries the Bacillus that causes Tuberculosis, whilst it is not dangerous or active in those people it is still transmissible to cattle and other animals, I suggest that the farmers are themselves are infecting the cattle in the milking sheds through poor hygiene practices and poor animal husbandry

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Looking at the map it appears some areas are managing the problem a lot better than others - Scotland for instance. Looks to me like its not the badgers to blame as they are widespread but farming methods in some areas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Owen Patterson says vaccination is only 50-60% effective but tests shows culling only reduces TB by 16%. Therefore its a no brainer, the cull should be abandoned and no more tax payers money wasted on this scheme.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    The previous government spent several million pounds of taxpayers money on a trial, lasting quite a few years, to see if culling badgers would help reduce TB in cattle. Their conclusion? It would "make no meaningful contribution". So why is this government going ahead and effectively wasting OUR money? And killing what is supposed to be a protected species. To placate a few farmers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    67.Desiderius Erasmus

    Yes, how about emulating the practices that famers have in areas with extremely low TB prevalance, like Scotland, despite having both lots of cattle & lots of badgers.....

    ....we used to have stricter rules on cattle movements.....

    ....but then they were called "red tape" & got rid of & look what happened......

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Tosh MB! Lets ignore the science and go with what is "commonly believed" shall we? Where would Civilisation be if this approach was kept? You'd probably be breaking your back in a field with a life expectancy in the 30's!
    The science says killing badges won't stop cows getting TB. End of story, unless you are a govenment giving in to a lobby group!


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